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At 80, “Successful Ager” Jack Nicklaus Remains as Relevant as Ever

Written by Les Detterbeck.

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Golfing great Jack Nicklaus turned 80 last week. His drives aren’t as long anymore- Gary Player can now outdrive him. Jack stepped away in 2018 from day-to-day operations of his companies which build golf courses all over the world. You might think Mr. Nicklaus is slowing down. But to hear Jack tell it, he got rid of the things he was tired of doing and is focusing on all the activities he likes; including public speaking engagements, occasional golf exhibitions, course design and fundraising with his wife.

 

Nicklaus started designing courses in 1969. He’s completed over 300. He’s become a grandfather to the “kids” on the PGA tour such as Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas. Rory McIlroy says that Nicklaus “has the best advice on how to play golf- not how to swing but how to play the game.” Jack’s wife of 60 years, Barbara, is chair of the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation and together they have raised over $50 million for pediatric care in Ohio and Florida. They just pledged to raise another $100 million over the next five years. Yes, Jack Nicklaus remains relevant as ever and, by any definition, is successfully aging.

 

Much has changed since Social Security was started in 1935. Back then, the average life expectancy was 61 years old. In 1947, the poet Dylan Thomas encouraged the elderly: “Do not go gentle into that good night, old age should burn and rage at close of day.” It’s starting to happen. With greater longevity and medical advances, it’s no surprise that the term “successful aging” has grown in popularity over the past few decades. Back in 1987, John Wallis Rowe and Robert Kahn published a book entitled “Successful Aging.” They felt there were three key factors: 1) being free of disability or disease, 2) having high cognitive and physical abilities, and 3) interacting with others in meaningful ways.

 

Now comes a new NYT bestseller; Dr. Daniel Levitin’s “Successful Aging; a neuroscientist explores the power and potential of our lives.” Today more people who are in the last quarter of their lives are engaged with life as much as they’ve ever been, immersed in social interactions, spiritual pursuits, hiking and nature, charitable work and even starting new professional projects. Dr. Levitin remarks: “They may look old, but they feel like the same people they were 50 years ago and this amazes them.”

 

Successful aging involves focusing on what is important to you, and being able to do what you want to do in old age. While successful aging may be one way to describe how well we age, the concept of meaningful aging might be another important way to consider how to age well.   Certainly, some of our faculties may have slowed, yet “seniors” are finding strength in compensatory mechanisms that have kicked in – positive changes in mood and outlook, punctuated by the exceptional benefits of experience. Baby boomers and their elders may process information more slowly than younger generations but they can intuitively synthesize a lifetime of information and make smarter decisions based on decades of learning, often from their mistakes.

 

Combining recent developments in neuroscience and psychology, “Successful Aging” presents a novel approach to how we think about our final decades. The book demonstrates that aging is not simply a period of decay but a unique time, like infancy or adolescence, which brings forth its own demands, surprises and happiness.

 

Until about thirty years ago, older people in the workforce were forced/encouraged to retire; a tremendous economic and creative loss. However, since the 1990s, the tide has been turning for seniors. Employers and organizations are awakening to the eastern idea that the elderly may not only be of some value but may provide superior enhancements to a group. New medical advances and positive lifestyle changes can help us to find enhanced fulfillment that previous generations may not have been able to do.

 

Research now shows, for example, that fending off Alzheimer’s disease involves five key components: 1) a diet rich in vegetables, 2) moderate physical exercise, 3) brain training exercise, 4) good sleep hygiene, and 5) an appropriate regimen of supplements. In addition, research shows that social stress can lead to a compromised immune system. We don’t need to be victims; we just need to take advantage of modern medicine and make some lifestyle changes.

 

When older people look back on their lives and are asked to pinpoint the age at which they were the happiest, what do you think they say? The age that comes up most often, according to Dr. Levitin, as the happiest time in one’s life is 82. And, that number is rising.

 

At DWM, we work with clients from 0 to 96. As total wealth managers, we understand life cycle planning, financial and investment strategies and proactively provide value-added services. Of course, we focus on making sure our clients have enough money for their entire lives. In addition, and as important, we pay particular attention to helping them experience the best life possible with the money they have. Their fulfillment is our fulfillment. Their happiness is our happiness.

Jack Nicklaus’s longtime PR man Scott Tolley says Jack still only operates at two speeds, “go and giddy-up.” Gary Player calls retirement a death warrant. It doesn’t need to be. Successful aging is getting easier and more fun and fulfilling. C’mon baby boomers- let’s giddy-up.

 

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